By Robert Szostek, USAREUR Customs PAO
Wiesbaden, Germany – German law prohibits many items from being imported into the country by mail. These banned articles could be things you order online or by mail order, or that relatives and friends mail to you.
The most common products sent through the Military Postal Service that are banned from import to Germany are medications, vitamins, health-care supplements, foodstuffs, coffee and items intended for home-based businesses.
“German and U.S. customs inspectors conducted 107 inspections at Army and Air Force postal facilities in Germany in FY16 and 873 shipments were intercepted,” said Fred Evans, Chief of Services at the USAREUR Customs Executive Agency. German customs may destroy any illegal imports and violators may face disciplinary action under German law and U.S. regulations, he added. Some packages are simply returned to the sender.
Evans added that people should not buy medications, diet pills or nutritional supplements by mail order because the importation of those items is forbidden. Even items like vitamins or ginseng in highly measured doses are subject to restrictions. A news release from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has more information on this complicated subject and is available online at www.army.mil/article/97298/German_laws_restrict_mailing_meds.
Food products are also restricted due to animal and plant health regulations. “Meat or meat products like beef jerky, dog food or ham are banned from the mail, as are canned meats, soup mixes or pasta containing meat.” There are further restrictions on dairy products, potatoes and eggs. Caviar from sturgeon is forbidden because all species of sturgeon are faced with extinction.
“Using the APO to import any item for resale, a business or volunteer organization is banned too,” Evans stated. “You should also remember that coffee, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are still rationed in Germany and may not be mailed via the APO,” he continued.
He explained that if you want to import items for commercial purposes, you must have them delivered to your German home address and pay any import duty or taxes due. If you don’t, you are violating the law and U.S. military regulations by evading taxes. The same rule applies to rationed items such as coffee, liquor and cigars.
Counterfeits of trademarked items are another example of things barred from the mail. “Trademark violations are the illegal use of signs, names, logos and business names that brand manufacturers use to distinguish their products,” Evans explained. Many producers of DVDs, CDs or designer goods such as purses, shoes or clothing have registered their trademarks with customs who inspect the mail for fake products.
Firearms and ammunition are also restricted items that should only be mailed to Germany if you have the required German permits. Evans added that some types of paintball guns and air soft rifles available stateside are more powerful than German law allows and so people should consult customs before ordering these kinds of weapons.
Endangered species products are another area of concern. People buying these products add to the risk of animals and plants becoming extinct and customs can confiscate the goods and fine you. Reptile skins are often used in watchbands, handbags, belts, wallets, and shoes. Most crocodile, lizard, snake, and all sea turtle products are prohibited too. Customs will also stop ivory and whale teeth decorations (known as scrimshaw and netsuke) as well as many plants such as cacti and orchids.
Avoid nasty mail box surprises and keep prohibited items out of the APO. The local customs office can provide more advice on these mail questions and information is also available in English on the German customs website at www.zoll.de/EN/Private-individuals/Postal_consignments_internet_order/Shipments-to-Germany/Restrictions/Goods/goods_node.html.